Burton Egbert Stevenson.

The Home Book of Verse — Volume 4 online

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The breath of heath and furze
When breezes blow at morning,
Is not so fresh as hers.

The ladies of St. James's!
They're painted to the eyes;
Their white it stays for ever,
Their red it never dies:
But Phyllida, my Phyllida!
Her color comes and goes;
It trembles to a lily, -
It wavers to a rose.

The ladies of St. James's!
You scarce can understand
The half of all their speeches,
Their phrases are so grand:
But Phyllida, my Phyllida!
Her shy and simple words
Are clear as after rain-drops
The music of the birds.

The ladies of St. James's!
They have their fits and freaks;
They smile on you - for seconds,
They frown on you - for weeks:
But Phyllida, my Phyllida!
Come either storm or shine,
From Shrove-tide unto Shrove-tide,
Is always true - and mine.

My Phyllida! my Phyllida!
I care not though they heap
The hearts of all St. James's,
And give me all to keep;
I care not whose the beauties
Of all the world may be,
For Phyllida - for Phyllida
Is all the world to me!

Austin Dobson [1840-1921]


Monsieur the Cure down the street
Comes with his kind old face, -
With his coat worn bare, and his straggling hair,
And his green umbrella-case.

You may see him pass by the little "Grande Place",
And the tiny "Hotel-de-Ville";
He smiles, as he goes, to the fleuriste Rose,
And the pompier Theophile.

He turns, as a rule, through the "Marche" cool,
Where the noisy fish-wives call;
And his compliment pays to the "Belle Therese",
As she knits in her dusky stall.

There's a letter to drop at the locksmith's shop,
And Toto, the locksmith's niece,
Has jubilant hopes, for the Cure gropes
In his tails for a pain d'epice.

There's a little dispute with a merchant of fruit,
Who is said to be heterodox,
That will ended be with a "Ma foi, oui!"
And a pinch from the Cure's box.

There is also a word that no one heard
To the furrier's daughter Lou.;
And a pale cheek fed with a flickering red,
And a "Ben Dieu garde M'sieu'!"

But a grander way for the Sous-Prefet,
And a bow for Ma'am'selle Anne;
And a mock "off-hat" to the Notary's cat,
And a nod to the Sacristan: -

For ever through life the Cure goes
With a smile on his kind old face -
With his coat worn bare, and his straggling hair,
And his green umbrella-case.

Austin Dobson [1840-1921]


He lived in that past Georgian day,
When men were less inclined to say
That "Time is Gold," and overlay
With toil their pleasure;
He held some land, and dwelt thereon, -
Where, I forget, - the house is gone;
His Christian name, I think, was John, -
His surname, Leisure.

Reynolds has painted him, - a face
Filled with a fine, old-fashioned grace,
Fresh-colored, frank, with ne'er a trace
Of trouble shaded;
The eyes are blue, the hair is dressed
In plainest way, - one hand is pressed
Deep in a flapped canary vest,
With buds brocaded.

He wears a brown old Brunswick coat,
With silver buttons, - round his throat,
A soft cravat; - in all you note
An elder fashion, -
A strangeness, which, to us who shine
In shapely hats, - whose coats combine
All harmonies of hue and line,
Inspires compassion.

He lived so long ago, you see!
Men were untravelled then, but we,
Like Ariel, post o'er land and sea
With careless parting;
He found it quite enough for him
To smoke his pipe in "garden trim,"
And watch, about the fish tank's brim,
The swallows darting.

He liked the well-wheel's creaking tongue, -
He liked the thrush that fed her young, -
He liked the drone of flies among
His netted peaches;
He liked to watch the sunlight fall
Athwart his ivied orchard wall;
Or pause to catch the cuckoo's call
Beyond the beeches.

His were the times of Paint and Patch,
And yet no Ranelagh could match
The sober doves that round his thatch
Spread tails and sidled;
He liked their ruffling, puffed content;
For him their drowsy wheelings meant
More than a Mall of Beaux that bent,
Or Belles that bridled.

Not that, in truth, when life began
He shunned the flutter of the fan;
He too had maybe "pinked his man"
In Beauty's quarrel;
But now his "fervent youth" had flown
Where lost things go; and he was grown
As staid and slow-paced as his own
Old hunter, Sorrel.

Yet still he loved the chase, and held
That no composer's score excelled
The merry horn, when Sweetlip swelled
Its jovial riot;
But most his measured words of praise
Caressed the angler's easy ways, -
His idly meditative days, -
His rustic diet.

Not that his "meditating" rose
Beyond a sunny summer doze;
He never troubled his repose
With fruitless prying;
But held, as law for high and low,
What God withholds no man can know,
And smiled away enquiry so,
Without replying.

We read - alas, how much we read! -
The jumbled strifes of creed and creed
With endless controversies feed
Our groaning tables;
His books - and they sufficed him - were
Cotton's Montaigne, The Grave of Blair,
A "Walton" - much the worse for wear,
And Aesop's Fables.

One more - The Bible. Not that he
Had searched its page as deep as we;
No sophistries could make him see
Its slender credit;
It may be that he could not count
The sires and sons to Jesse's fount, -
He liked the "Sermon on the Mount," -
And more, he read it.

Once he had loved, but failed to wed,
A red-cheeked lass who long was dead;
His ways were far too slow, he said,
To quite forget her;
And still when time had turned him gray,
The earliest hawthorn buds in May
Would find his lingering feet astray,
Where first he met her.

"In Coelo Quies" heads the stone
On Leisure's grave, - now little known,
A tangle of wild-rose has grown
So thick across it;
The "Benefactions" still declare
He left the clerk an elbow-chair,
And "12 Pence Yearly to Prepare
A Christmas Posset."

Lie softly, Leisure! Doubtless you,
With too serene a conscience drew
Your easy breath, and slumbered through
The gravest issue;
But we, to whom our age allows
Scarce space to wipe our weary brows,
Look down upon your narrow house,
Old friend, and miss you!

Austin Dobson [1840-1921]

That Belonged To The Marquise De Pompadour

Chicken-skin, delicate, white,
Painted by Carlo Vanloo,
Loves in a riot of light,
Roses and vaporous blue;
Hark to the dainty frou-frou!
Picture above, if you can,
Eyes that could melt as the dew, -
This was the Pompadour's fan!

See how they rise at the sight,
Thronging the Ceil de Boeuf through,
Courtiers as butterflies bright,
Beauties that Fragonard drew,
Talon-rouge, falbala, queue,
Cardinal, Duke, - to a man,
Eager to sigh or to sue, -
This was the Pompadour's fan!

Ah, but things more than polite
Hung on this toy, voyez-vous!
Matters of state and of might,
Things that great ministers do;
Things that, maybe, overthrew
Those in whose brains they began;
Here was the sign and the cue, -
This was the Pompadour's fan!

Where are the secrets it knew?
Weavings of plot and of plan?
- But where is the Pompadour, too?
This was the Pompadour's Fan!

Austin Dobson [1840-1921]


When I saw you last, Rose,
You were only so high; -
How fast the time goes!

Like a bud ere it blows,
You just peeped at the sky,
When I saw you last, Rose!

Now your petals unclose,
Now your May-time is nigh; -
How fast the time goes!

And a life, - how it grows!
You were scarcely so shy,
When I saw you last, Rose!

In your bosom it shows
There's a guest on the sly;
(How fast the time goes!)

Is it Cupid? Who knows!
Yet you used not to sigh,
When I saw you last, Rose; -
How fast the time goes!

Austin Dobson [1840-1921]


I intended an Ode,
And it turned to a Sonnet.
It began a la mode,
I intended an Ode;
But Rose crossed the road
In her latest new bonnet;
I intended an Ode;
And it turned to a Sonnet.

Austin Dobson [1840-1921]


Myrtilla, to-night,
Wears Jacqueminot roses.
She's the loveliest sight!
Myrtilla to-night: -
Correspondingly light
My pocket-book closes.
Myrtilla, to-night
Wears Jacqueminot roses.

Charles Henry Luders [1858-1891]


What he said: -
This kiss upon your fan I press -
Ah! Sainte Nitouche, you don't refuse it!
And may it from its soft recess -
This kiss upon your fan I press -
Be blown to you, a shy caress,
By this white down, whene'er you use it.
This kiss upon your fan I press, -
Ah, Sainte Nitouche, you don't refuse it!

What she thought: -
To kiss a fan!
What a poky poet!
The stupid man
To kiss a fan
When he knows - that - he - can -
Or ought to know it -
To kiss a fan!
What a poky poet!

Harrison Robertson [1856-

From The French Of Francois Villon 1450

Tell me now in what hidden way is
Lady Flora the lovely Roman?
Where's Hipparchia, and where is Thais,
Neither of them the fairer woman?
Where is Echo, beheld of no man,
Only heard on river and mere, -
She whose beauty was more than human?...
But where are the snows of yester-year?

Where's Heloise, the learned nun,
For whose sake Abeilard, I ween,
Lost manhood and put priesthood on?
(From Love he won such dule and teen!)
And where, I pray you, is the Queen
Who willed that Buridan should steer
Sewed in a sack's mouth down the Seine?...
But where are the snows of yester-year?

White Queen Blanche, like a queen of lilies,
With a voice like any mermaiden, -
Bertha Broadfoot, Beatrice, Alice,
And Ermengarde the lady of Maine, -
And that good Joan whom Englishmen
At Rouen doomed and burned her there, -
Mother of God, where are they then?...
But where are the snows of yester-year?

Nay, never ask this week, fair lord,
Where they are gone, nor yet this year,
Except with this for an overword, -
But where are the snows of yester-year?

Dante Gabriel Rossetti [1828-1882]

After Villon

Nay, tell me now in what strange air
The Roman Flora dwells to-day,
Where Archippiada hides, and where
Beautiful Thais has passed away?
Whence answers Echo, afield, astray,
By mere or stream, - around, below?
Lovelier she than a woman of clay;
Nay, but where is the last year's snow?

Where is wise Heloise, that care
Brought on Abeilard, and dismay?
All for her love he found a snare,
A maimed poor monk in orders gray;
And where's the Queen who willed to slay
Buridan, that in a sack must go
Afloat down Seine, - a perilous way -
Nay, but where is the last year's snow?

Where's that White Queen, a lily rare,
With her sweet song, the Siren's lay?
Where's Bertha Broad-foot, Beatrice fair?
Alys and Ermengarde, where are they?
Good Joan, whom English did betray
In Rouen town, and burned her? No,
Maiden and Queen, no man may say;
Nay, but where is the last year's snow?

Prince, all this week thou needst not pray,
Nor yet this year the thing to know.
One burden answers, ever and aye,
"Nay, but where is the last year's snow?"

Andrew Lang [1844-1912]

After Villon
From "If I Were King"

I wonder in what Isle of Bliss
Apollo's music fills the air;
In what green valley Artemis
For young Endymion spreads the snare:
Where Venus lingers debonair:
The Wind has blown them all away -
And Pan lies piping in his lair -
Where are the Gods of Yesterday?

Say where the great Semiramis
Sleeps in a rose-red tomb; and where
The precious dust of Caesar is,
Or Cleopatra's yellow hair:
Where Alexander Do-and-Dare;
The Wind has blown them all away -
And Redbeard of the Iron Chair;
Where are the Dreams of Yesterday?

Where is the Queen of Herod's kiss,
And Phryne in her beauty bare;
By what strange sea does Tomyris
With Dido and Cassandra share
Divine Proserpina's despair;
The Wind has blown them all away -
For what poor ghost does Helen care?
Where are the Girls of Yesterday?

Alas for lovers! Pair by pair
The Wind has blown them all away:
The young and yare, the fond and fair:
Where are the Snows of Yesterday?

Justin Huntly McCarthy [1860-1936]

After Villon
From "If I Were King"

All French folk, whereso'er ye be,
Who love your country, sail and sand,
From Paris to the Breton sea,
And back again to Norman strand,
Forsooth ye seem a silly band,
Sheep without shepherd, left to chance -
Far otherwise our Fatherland,
If Villon were the King of France!

The figure on the throne you see
Is nothing but a puppet, planned
To wear the regal bravery
Of silken coat and gilded wand.
Not so we Frenchmen understand
The Lord of lion's heart and glance,
And such a one would take command
If Villon were the King of France!

His counsellors are rogues, Perdie!
While men of honest mind are banned
To creak upon the Gallows Tree,
Or squeal in prisons over-manned
We want a chief to bear the brand,
And bid the damned Burgundians dance.
God! Where the Oriflamme should stand
If Villon were the King of France!

Louis the Little, play the grand;
Buffet the foe with sword and lance;
'Tis what would happen, by this hand,
If Villon were the King of France!

Justin Huntly McCarthy [1860-1936]


The gallows in my garden, people say,
Is new and neat and adequately tall.
I tie the noose on in a knowing way
As one that knots his necktie for a ball;
But just as all the neighbors - on the wall -
Are drawing a long breath to shout "Hurray!"
The strangest whim has seized me... After all
I think I will not hang myself to-day.

To-morrow is the time I get my pay -
My uncle's sword is hanging in the hall -
I see a little cloud all pink and gray -
Perhaps the rector's mother will not call -
I fancy that I heard from Mr. Gall
That mushrooms could be cooked another way -
I never read the works of Juvenal -
I think I will not hang myself to-day.

The world will have another washing day;
The decadents decay; the pedants pall;
And H. G. Wells has found that children play,
And Bernard Shaw discovered that they squall;
Rationalists are growing rational -
And through thick woods one finds a stream astray,
So secret that the very sky seems small -
I think I will not hang myself to-day.

Prince, I can hear the trumpet of Germinal,
The tumbrils toiling up the terrible way;
Even to-day your royal head may fall -
I think I will not hang myself to-day.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton [1874-1936]


Through this our city of delight,
This Paris of our joy and play,
This Paris perfumed, jeweled, bright,
Rouged, powdered, amorous, - ennuye:
Across our gilded Quartier,
So fair to see, so frail au fond,
Echoes - mon Dieu! - the Ragman's bray:
"Mar - chand d'ha - bits! Chif - fons!"

Foul, hunched, a plague to dainty sight,
He limps infect by park and quai,
Voicing (for those that hear aright)
His hunger-world, the dark Marais.
Sexton of all we waste and fray,
He bags at last pour tout de bon
Our trappings rare, our braveries gay,
"Mar - chand d'ha - bits! Chif - fons!"

Their lot is ours! A grislier wight,
The Ragman Time, takes day by day
Our beauty's bloom, our manly might,
Our joie de vivre, our gods of clay;
Till torn and worn and soiled and gray
Hot life rejects us - nom de nom! -
Rags! and our only requiem lay,
"Mar - chand d'ha - bits! Chif - fons!"

Princes take heed! - for where are they,
Valois, Navarre and Orleans?...
Death drones the answer, far away,
"Mar - chand d'ha - bits! Chif - fons!"

William Samuel Johnson [1859-

Lower Empire. Circa A. D. 700

The Monk Arnulphus uncorked his ink
That shone with a blood-red light
Just now as the sun began to sink;
His vellum was pumiced a silvery white;
"The Basileus" - for so he began -
"Is a royal sagacious Mars of a man,
Than the very lion bolder;
He has married the stately widow of Thrace - "
"Hush!" cried a voice at his shoulder.

His palette gleamed with a burnished green,
Bright as a dragon-fly's skin:
His gold-leaf shone like the robe of a queen,
His azure glowed as a cloud worn thin,
Deep as the blue of the king-whale's lair:
"The Porphyrogenita Zoe the fair
Is about to wed with a Prince much older,
Of an unpropitious mien and look - "
"Hush!" cried a voice at his shoulder.

The red flowers trellised the parchment page,
The birds leaped up on the spray,
The yellow fruit swayed and drooped and swung,
It was Autumn mixed up with May.
(O, but his cheek was shrivelled and shrunk!)
"The child of the Basileus," wrote the Monk,
"Is golden-haired - tender the Queen's arms fold her.
Her step-mother Zoe doth love her so - "
"Hush!" cried a voice at his shoulder.

The Kings and Martyrs and Saints and Priests
All gathered to guard the text:
There was Daniel snug in the lions' den
Singing no whit perplexed -
Brazen Samson with spear and helm -
"The Queen," wrote the Monk, "rules firm this realm,
For the King gets older and older.
The Norseman Thorkill is brave and fair - "
"Hush!" cried a voice at his shoulder.

Walter Thornbury [1828-1876]


When thin-strewn memory I look through,
I see most clearly poor Miss Loo,
Her tabby cat, her cage of birds,
Her nose, her hair - her muffled words,
And how she would open her green eyes,
As if in some immense surprise,
Whenever as we sat at tea,
She made some small remark to me.

'Tis always drowsy summer when
From out the past she comes again;
The westering sunshine in a pool
Floats in her parlor still and cool;
While the slim bird its lean wires shakes,
As into piercing song it breaks;
Till Peter's pale-green eyes ajar
Dream, wake; wake, dream, in one brief bar;
And I am sitting, dull and shy,
And she with gaze of vacancy,

And large hands folded on the tray,
Musing the afternoon away;
Her satin bosom heaving slow
With sighs that softly ebb and flow,
And her plain face in such dismay,
It seems unkind to look her way;
Until all cheerful back will come
Her gentle gleaming spirit home:
And one would think that poor Miss Loo
Asked nothing else, if she had you.

Walter De la Mare [1873-


A portly Wood-louse, full of cares,
Transacted eminent affairs
Along a parapet where pears
Unripened fell
And vines embellished the sweet airs
With muscatel.

Day after day beheld him run
His scales a-twinkle in the sun
About his business never done;
Night's slender span he
Spent in the home his wealth had won -
A red-brick cranny.

Thus, as his Sense of Right directed,
He lived both honored and respected,
Cherished his children and protected
His duteous wife,
And naught of diffidence deflected
His useful life.

One mid-day, hastening to his Club,
He spied beside a water-tub
The owner of each plant and shrub
A humble Bard -
Who turned upon the conscious grub
A mild regard.

"Eh?" quoth the Wood-louse, "Can it be
A Higher Power looks down to see
My praiseworthy activity
And notes me plying
My Daily Task? - Nor strange, dear me,
But gratifying!"

To whom the Bard: I still divest
My orchard of the Insect Pest,
That you are such is manifest,
Prepare to die. -
And yet, how sweetly does your crest
Reflect the sky!

"Go then forgiven, (for what ails
Your naughty life this fact avails
Tu pardon) mirror in your scales
Celestial blue,
Till the sun sets and the light fails
The skies and you."


May all we proud and bustling parties
Whose lot in forum, street and mart is
Stand in conspectu Deitatis
And save our face,
Reflecting where our scaly heart is
Some skyey grace.

Helen Parry Eden [18


John Brown and Jeanne at Fontainebleau -
'Twas Toussaint, just a year ago;
Crimson and copper was the glow
Of all the woods at Fontainebleau.
They peered into that ancient well,
And watched the slow torch as it fell.
John gave the keeper two whole sous,
And Jeanne that smile with which she woos
John Brown to folly. So they lose
The Paris train. But never mind! -
All-Saints are rustling in the wind,
And there's an inn, a crackling fire -
It's deux-cinquante, but Jeanne's desire);
There's dinner, candles, country wine,
Jeanne's lips - philosophy divine!
There was a bosquet at Saint Cloud
Wherein John's picture of her grew
To be a Salon masterpiece -
Till the rain fell that would not cease.
Through one long alley how they raced! -
'Twas gold and brown, and all a waste
Of matted leaves, moss-interlaced.
Shades of mad queens and hunter-kings
And thorn-sharp feet of dryad-things
Were company to their wanderings;
Then rain and darkness on them drew.
The rich folks' motors honked and flew.
They hailed an old cab, heaven for two;
The bright Champs-Elysees at last -
Though the cab crawled it sped too fast.

Paris, upspringing white and gold:
Flamboyant arch and high-enscrolled
War-sculpture, big, Napoleonic -
Fierce chargers, angels histrionic;
The royal sweep of gardened spaces,
The pomp and whirl of columned Places;
The Rive Gauche, age-old, gay and gray;
The impasse and the loved cafe;
The tempting tidy little shops;
The convent walls, the glimpsed tree-tops;
Book-stalls, old men like dwarfs in plays;
Talk, work, and Latin Quarter ways.

May - Robinson's, the chestnut trees -
Were ever crowds as gay as these?
The quick pale waiters on a run,
The round green tables, one by one,
Hidden away in amorous bowers -
Lilac, laburnum's golden showers.
Kiss, clink of glasses, laughter heard,
And nightingales quite undeterred.
And then that last extravagance -
O Jeanne, a single amber glance
Will pay him! - "Let's play millionaire
For just two hours - on princely fare,
At some hotel where lovers dine
A deux and pledge across the wine."
They find a damask breakfast-room,
Where stiff silk roses range their bloom.
The garcon has a splendid way
Of bearing in grand dejeuner.
Then to be left alone, alone,
High up above Rue Castiglione;
Curtained away from all the rude
Rumors, in silken solitude;
And, John, her head upon your knees -
Time waits for moments such as these.

Florence Wilkinson [18


It was an old, old, old, old lady,
And a boy that was half-past three;
And the way that they played together
Was beautiful to see.

She couldn't go running and jumping,
And the boy, no more could he;
For he was a thin little fellow,
With a thin little twisted knee.

They sat in the yellow sunlight,
Out under the maple tree;
And the game that they played I'll tell you,
Just as it was told to me.

It was Hide-and-Go-Seek they were playing,
Though you'd never have known it to be -
With an old, old, old, old lady,
And a boy with a twisted knee.

The boy would bend his face down
On his one little sound right knee,
And he'd guess where she was hiding,
In guesses One, Two, Three!

"You are in the china-closet!"
He would cry, and laugh with glee -
It wasn't the china closet,
But he still had Two and Three.

"You are up in papa's big bedroom,
In the chest with the queer old key!"
And she said: "You are warm and warmer;
But you're not quite right," said she.

"It can't be the little cupboard
Where mamma's things used to be -
So it must be the clothes-press, Gran'ma!"
And he found her with his Three.

Then she covered her face with her fingers,
That were wrinkled and white and wee,
And she guessed where the boy was hiding,
With a One and a Two and a Three.

And they never had stirred from their places,
Right under the maple tree -
This old, old, old, old lady
And the boy with the lame little knee -
This dear, dear, dear old lady,
And the boy who was half-past three.

Henry Cuyler Bunner [1855-1896]


I take my chaperon to the play -
She thinks she's taking me.
And the gilded youth who owns the box,
A proud young man is he;
But how would his young heart be hurt
If he could only know
That not for his sweet sake I go
Nor yet to see the trifling show;
But to see my chaperon flirt.

Her eyes beneath her snowy hair
They sparkle young as mine;
There's scarce a wrinkle in her hand
So delicate and fine.
And when my chaperon is seen,
They come from everywhere -
The dear old boys with silvery hair,
With old-time grace and old-time air,
To greet their old-time queen.

They bow as my young Midas here
Will never learn to bow
(The dancing-masters do not teach
That gracious reverence now);
With voices quavering just a bit,
They play their old parts through,
They talk of folk who used to woo,
Of hearts that broke in 'fifty-two -
Now none the worse for it.

And as those aged crickets chirp,
I watch my chaperon's face,
And see the dear old features take
A new and tender grace;
And in her happy eyes I see
Her youth awakening bright,
With all its hope, desire, delight -

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